What to Know When Accessing Services for the First Time

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “What to Know When Accessing Services for the First Time”. The words “Accessing Services” are larger and curved upwards like a smile. On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

Content warning for discussion of systematic ableism, gaslighting

Hi all,

Navigating services in 2020 is a huge challenge, as people who have been following politics and issues concerning marginalised people will be aware of. Here are some things to know when navigating services as a multiply marginalised person. This article is aimed primarily at people who need to access support for the first time and have no previous experience dealing with it first hand.

Know what you are getting yourself into.

People who engage services often have no other choice. Hence, due to how dire the situation is with services, it is often seen as a last resort. This will affect how much of a priority you are seen as by services – and this is even further complicated by those with additional support needs or marginalisations. Hence, you need to do research in relation to how said services treat people who fit your marginalisations. This is so you know where to go and where to avoid. Likewise, research local laws such as the UK’s Equality Act 2010 so you can understand your rights regarding what you need help with.

Sites of large organisations are a good place to start, as they explain relevant laws and concepts in plain English and other language equivalents. However, other recommend sources are actually service users as well as user-led organisations. This is because they can explain the situation on the ground away from positive marketing and any secret backroom deals major funders may place on services (this is one reason the UK’s largest disability charities do not hold the DWP to account properly).

There will be a lot of waiting and a lot of rejections

Before I go on, I want to clarify that the behaviours outlined by services below is NOTHING personal against the users by the service providers in many cases. Many staff members want to help, but the awful process of accessing support is the result of government policy that forces them to make difficult decisions on who gets help. It also means they often wait until peoples circumstances get worse before they will help. Service users basically need to answer the following question implicitly asked by each service:

“Why do we have to help? Why can’t anybody else?”

It will be a fight to get anywhere. This will drag out far longer than necessary, so don’t set yourself an expectation of a date where you hope you have what you need. This is because it is very likely what you need won’t happen promptly at best.

Why do services reject people?

Services will often reject people for many reasons. A lot of it will come down to trying to reduce their workload so they don’t have to deal with as many people as the funding they have doesn’t allow it. Hence service users need to keep persisting as much as possible. Rejections usually despite good intentions as often services just cannot help somebody properly, however bigotry is sometimes the case. Some ways these rejections happen include:

  • Misinterpreting the law on purpose to justify gatekeeping – this is where services relying on service users not understanding the law or having the energy to fight back even when they do understand it. One example is not giving somebody the correct priority for a service, such as denying emergency accommodation to somebody that is sofa surfing and could be on the streets at anytime.
  • Citing requirements not made clear before initial contact – This is where sometimes a service user discloses something that leads the service to state that they can’t help someone regardless of how true it is. This is even when conversations initially go well, and support is promised. I had this happen repeatedly when I tried to access services, usually after I disclosed that I was homeless. Another scenario is when your eligibility criteria is changed over time, following a separate or related appointment that someone is told to report feedback on. This also happened to me. It was not made clear to me that anything said at the appointment could affect my elgibility. Because it was, I was ejected from the service with no chance of appeal. Services can get around this by being more clear at the beginning at the request, however I suspect they don’t do this partially because the ambiguity allows them to dodge accountability.
  • Nitpicking – this is where they purposely reject people for very minor reasons or for how they think could react in situations very unlikely to happen. Or if they do, they do not consider that people already have action plans to counteract them nor attempt to find out before rejection.
  • Nonsense – this is basically where services can make up reasons to justify their rejections that is legal to do, but is obviously nonsense to the service user. One example is blaming an autistic person’s mental illness on them being autistic to deny counselling and discharge them, when this is untrue. They know it doesn’t matter if its lies, as long as it’s legal to do so they will get away with it.
  • Not responding to initial contact or following up (ie. A callback) – I am told this is essentially a face-saving act for the service, so that services indirectly let people down rather than have to deal with bad reactions from people when they know they are not eligible. Other times emails, calls etc. are genuinely forgotten about due to workload, but then by the time people find it again, they decide its not worth addressing due to how long it has sat there.

Accessibility needs will often not be met

Services will wrongly assume that every person can use the phone and act accordingly. That means some of the most vulnerable people will struggle to access services. You will often have to repeat your access needs to people countless times before they finally understand and respect them. This is discrimination but like with rejections, services will often get away with it. What I did to mitigate this was write multiple paragraphs in my email signature to pre-emptively stop these conversations. While nobody should have to take steps like this, it works.

You will be forced to repeat your history which each new service you talk to

Many services will have their own assessment proceedures that staff at these services have to follow, which at best is incredibly annoying. This is because the assessments between each service are broadly the same in content, even though what each service provides can differ significantly especially when services are specifially for certain groups (ie. Many services for people my age will often have the following specialisms – Young people, Women, LGBTQ+, Trans-only, People of Colour, Asian, Muslims, Disability, Neurodivergent).

Unfortunately, a major downside of this means reliving trauma as people will not simply just reuse existing information for their own, they must follow the proceedures they have and ask for entirely new recounts of the same information. What I did to help mitigate this was to write an extensive summary of my situation and supplied that to help me communicate what I needed to and give them evidence to use for their assessment.

A lot of mainstream advice is cookie cutter, irrespective of marginalisations and individual needs

Systematic bigotry exists everywhere and default advice in the Western world centres the perspectives of white abled neurotypical cishet men. This is subconscious, because most people are uninformed on how suitable or not their advice. Usually it is because they are trained to give said stock advice and signposting . Hence, be prepared to hear the same well-meaning advice from services and for them to be unable to help you when you point out how it isn’t suitable. At it’s worst, it is unsolicited advice that is both deeply triggering and unsuitable especially as trauma stacks up over time. It is also often done when people are being rejected from services.

Some examples:

  • Telling a homeless people who has never managed a tenancy before they can go private as an option and enclosing a bunch of documents meant to help them on their way, but not helping them understand
  • Sending a list of phone numbers to call regarding mental health support, even though this doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t accessible
  • Urging people to contact the police so they can deal with abusers criminally, even though for many minority groups especially black people, this is not viable.
  • Telling disabled people to “chase up” services, even though said service contact methods are inaccessible and people there don’t respond to messages or call back
  • Encouraging autistic and LGBTQ+ people to “change who they are,” thinking it will help, despite lots of evidence to the contrary

This is why I mentioned getting facts from service users and user led orgs earlier as part of your research.

Some services gaslight to ignore systematic barriers

This is likely the most triggering pat of the article for many, so this is it’s own section. Services can also act in a way that is dismissive of legitimate systematic barriers towards marginalised groups when said cookie cutter advice from above is challenged. This is when services dismiss real and valid issues that affect a whole group as somebody’s personal fears or anxiety. Examples include:

  • Why BAME and black people do not trust the police and avoid all non-essential engagement
  • Why disabled people do not trust social security offices or doctors, so often do not get what they’re entitled to to survive
  • Why reaching out for mental health support can be dangerous for autistic and other neurodivergent people
  • Why a trans person outing themselves to single gender services like refuges can be dangerous

The way services will say it indirectly is “You feel that [this systematic barrier/danger] is an issue, but we don’t accept this. We will claim that all users are required to engage with [said systematic barrier/danger] regardless of personal or systematic barriers.” This is an attempt to absolve themselves of any responsibility of educating themselves and addressing their unconscious biases, but in reality signifies to service users they are not to be trusted. It is a warning sign of bad support. Do not engage services that do this where possible.

You may have to take drastic action upon being failed, including relocation to places where specialist support is

Outside of major cities (Like London, Glasgow and Manchester in the UK), there is little support for marginalised groups. Some support exists almost everywhere in developed countries, but in more rural, right-wing areas it is next to nonexistant. Only a few places exist across those areas and with very limited supply. This also factors into the gatekeeping and barriers marginalised people face in these areas, where service staff tend to believe myths perpetrated by the right. Hence, vulnerable people are not taken seriously and trauma is often compounded. Sometimes situations become unsustainable like mine was and disengaging from local services and/or relocating to try elsewhere are the only viable options left. Only once marginalised people move to a more understanding area after being badly failed, do they close in on the help they need. This is something I anecdotally heard is very common from providers regarding housing and LGBTQ+ support.

Do not face this alone

Trying to access services is EXHAUSTING. I almost gave up a few times myself, but managed to keep at it due to seeking help, such as:

  • Peer support from friends, both in person and over the internet. This can be directly elated to solving the situation or moral support.
  • Advocacy services. Many organisations do this in somecapacity such as Shelter, the LGBT Foundation and many user led groups have professionals that will help advocate for you for free.
  • Mental health support, mostly self-help support and techniques while more proper support is put in place, such as writing and gaming.

Self care is so important

It’s OK to disengage from the situation sometimes. It’s OK to take steps to look after yourself, such as engaging in a hobby sometimes. It is OK to buy yourself some treats when and where you have the money. It’s OK if you have to give up with or disengage from certain organisations that harm where it is feasible. You will get there.

I hope this series of tips will help you navigate the mess that are services.

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

Gender Euphoria: How Transitioning Affects Autistic Related Passions

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “Gender Euphoria: How Transitioning Affects Autistic Related Passions”. On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

Content warning: gender dysphoria, trauma discussion, toxic masculinity, gamerTM culture discussion, radicalisation mention

Hi all,

Today I am going to talk about an aspect of transitioning and getting lived experience that I haven’t talked about much on here. Namely, how it changes hobbies and passions (aka what many people describe as “special interests” in autistic people) usually for the better.

Transitioning and hobbies

There was something regarding hobbies that I was told after coming out, which I imagine is a fairly common thing told to freshly cracked eggs. This idea is that people who come out should drop all previous things that were associated with them pre-transition, including hobbies. This would be because of shame over who they were. Hence, to be themselves they need to essentially conform to gender based stereotypes.
I don’t need to explain the problems with gender stereotypes and putting hobbies into boxes. However before I go on to the positives regarding hobbies and transitioning, the issue with this idea need explaining. Namely that:

It misunderstands the trauma trans people have

Generally, a lot of the trauma trans people have regarding their hobbies stem as a result of how they engage with said hobbies. Namely, to try to suppress their true gender identity whether they realise it or not. The hobbies themselves aren’t necessarily the issue.

For a lot of trans people, before they come out they try to live the assigned role they were given. I find it difficult to describe without using the wording I used when I tried to do this, so I’ll use it. Namely, a quest to “find a masculine identity I [was] comfortable with.” Often this does include conforming to gender stereotypes sometimes to extreme ends.

Trauma can be compounded by this for many possible reasons like:

  • Realising that it isn’t solving the underlying distress (only transitioning does that).
  • How people perceive said trans person engaging with said hobbies can be distressing
  • Becoming toxic and harmful in the process through social circles, which need to be unpacked (a lot of trans women have had anti-SJW/alt right and/or incel phases, even if they don’t truly believe the argument. However, many go along with them to fit in)
  • When they discover they’ve internalised a lot of transphobic myths from wider society and needing to unpack them
  • All of the above can be complicated when somebody practices hyper masculinity or hyper femininity as a result
  • Likewise when other intersections are involved, such as disability and race

Changing their interests whether pre or post transition by itself will usually only help trans people when it is to:

  • Alleviate dysphoria
  • Increase euphoria
  • Heal from trauma
  • Aid personal safety

In longer words, it can be a new beginning in being true to themselves. Going “OK I didn’t actually like this. What do I actually like? Who am I really? How can I express myself in a genuine way?” It means unpacking the trauma and unconscious bigotry they acquired over time. It means looking deep into themselves and self-reflecting honestly. It also means working out a practical plan of action on taking steps to move forward and become themselves. This is why supportive therapy can be very beneficial for many.

How it could impact trans autistic people

For an autistic person, this is even more doubly important. Passions are often something that is an integral part of our identity and being told to change it completely is an impossible request.

Often our best chances of having a successful career stem from our passions. Hence, to just abandon them can be further damaging as we can lose our sense of purpose and direction and put us at risk of mental harm (or even radicalisation to the far right especially for cis autistic men.)

Additionally, engaging in passions can be very helpful for sensory regulation in a world that is hostile towards autistic people and even more hostile to trans autistic people. Having something reliable to fall back on to help deal with the world helps mitigate meltdowns and can be life saving.

Additionally, ADHD related hyper focusing can also factor into this especially when it makes it easy for time to pass. This can greatly boost enjoyment of passions and sustain mental health. This is especially important as due to both ableism and transphobia, autistic trans people are more likely to be unemployed, have comorbid mental illnesses and/or untreated gender dysphoria.

Redirecting passions to become more euphoric

A way around this is to redirect energy into more inclusive and euphoric aspects of hobbies. Let me contextualise all the above using my passion for video games:

Over the last year or so, I’ve gravitated more towards casual games aimed primarily at women (such as Animal Crossing, Rune Factory and otome visual novels). I play more “core games” on lower difficulties such as Xenoblade Chronicles, embrace accessibility features and becoming a mostly handheld-only gamer gal. This has the very pleasant side effect of being quite euphoric and validating. It is telling me that “Yes I am feminine and I am enjoying what I deprived myself of prior to coming out.” Said games being feminine is seen that way by wider society. Subsequently I enjoy gaming a lot more than I used to and complete more titles. This includes side content within longer RPGs that I would previously skip.

It wasn’t always this way though. Before I came out, I had unknowingly internalised toxic gamer(TM) culture while trying to feel comfortable in my assigned gender. This included playing games, including problematic moe crap, on the default or higher difficulty because it was “the way it’s meant to be played.” I frequently dropped games mid way through due as a result and avoided games with “politics” in them. This was compounded by my attempt to crack games journalism professionally via a site that enabled this toxicity. This meant a lot of trauma built up over time. I wasn’t enjoying my hobby, nor truly belonged with a community of bigots. Because gaming was my passion, I couldn’t abandon it contrary to the myth mentioned.

I redirected my passion into something positive by:

  • Be honest with myself about what I actually felt about my gaming hobbies and took action
  • Moved myself from toxic circles into more inclusive circles
  • Allocated my gaming time and money towards said feminine games
  • Using appropriate accessibility features and lower difficulty settings
  • As the euphoria builds up and continues to affirm, past trauma begins to heal and I relearned to enjoy my passion
  • Interest in toxic circles and problematic moe games decline
  • Abandoned games journalism as a career, but would like to do gaming content on my terms down the line
  • Developed more passions as a result, becoming a more rounded person

It is a similar process for a lot of hobbies – likewise between other trans people.

Any change that happens is out of personal choice or necessity

This is the crucial thing. When trans people make these conscious changes to their hobbies, they only do it because they want or need to. Not because society or individuals tell them to, unless its potentially detrimental to their life. We should support them in doing so, especially as for trans autistic people, passions are critical

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

For The World of Work to be Truly Inclusive, it Must Unpack it’s Systematic Ableism

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “Why the World of Work Must Eradicate Systematic Ableism to be Truly Inclusive”. On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

Content warning for: systematic ableism, internalised ableism, discrimination, subminimum wage, abuse mention

Hi all,

Over the next few months on this blog, there is going to be a recurring theme. Namely about moving into adulthood as a disabled person, which put it lightly is fraught with barriers. Many of these barriers are unnecessary and put on by society even when they don’t know it. An excellent example of this is the world of work. I’ve blogged in the past quite positively about the world of work – especially as last autumn, I did manage to hold a full-time role for seven weeks before my employer let me go. I was let go due to my circumstances combined with the position being unsuitable for me and resulting concern for my mental health. I should never have been there in the first place. The background info is relevant as my experiences there (alongside hearing other stories from other people) are what has led to a shift in perspective.

While I do believe there are genuine employers out there who try to be as inclusive as possible, the the problem is that the entire model of the world of work as is systematically ableist it needs to be completely dismantled and rebuilt. Because as it stands, genuine inclusivity will not be possible. Also, before I continue, this article is not about disabled people who cannot work at all, even with accommodations. Because those people exist and governments should be supporting those people properly, not forcing them to work when this is not possible. It is about the majority of disabled people who can work, but the world of work makes it inaccessible so are forced out. Here are some examples of this:

It punishes those who cannot work full time

The more hours somebody can work, the more they’re paid. Employers and governments alike place full-time work as an arbitrary requirement for people to earn a living. This usually means eight hours in the workplace with daily commutes five days a week. Anybody who cannot do this for any reason will struggle unless they can claim social security or live with other people who can support or limit living costs. This is what forces vulnerability onto people, putting them at risk of abuse.

All can think as to why is because employers will simply refuse to pay people full-time wages on part-time hours unless they are roles higher up the career ladder. This is because capitalists can frame it as a “reward for your hard work.” The fact there are part-time jobs on full-time pay restricted to senior, more experienced people supports this. It is ableist as it relies on the flawed idea that if people “work hard” to elevate through the ranks, they will be “rewarded” with something that for disabled people is an accessibility need – reduced working hours. Usually, it’s advertised by employers as a fringe benefit so that people can “relax” or “spend time with their family.” But for many disabled people, it is actually “have time for allocated support services” or “recover from a meltdown, flare up and other symptoms.” Said “fringe benefit” in this instance is essential for having an autonomous life.

This reminds me of the time I asked for advice on finding a “work from home graduate job” only to get told about requesting it as an accommodation and other implications that relies on the goodwill of employers. In other words, what many disabled people need to work any level job didn’t exist – even though it should. The same applies to part time hour work that pays a living wage by itself.

We can’t work hard in impossible situations.

It punishes those who need to seek regular support

Many people need to have medical appointments for things like therapy, as well as social care support. It can be a minefield negotiating the time off with an employer, especially when unconscious vbias or insist on people using holiday hours or something similar. It means people Ely on employer goodwill as disclosure can be used by the employer to “manage out” employees.

The solution for many disabled people is to work part time around appointments so they don’t have to tell the employer anything. Additionally, support services mostly only operate on weekdays, implicitly pushing the idea that people who need support do not work full time or at all, so will be available for said appointment. The same also applies to social care. It essentially means we are forced out of the highest paid, influential jobs all because we have additional support needs through no fault of our own. It’s a punishment that makes accessing services even harder. All of the above is compounded by daily commuting, further increasing burnout and restrictions especially in rural areas.

We can’t access support in impossible situations.

It punishes those who can’t network for any reason

The world of work isn’t actually about what skills people have. Sure, training plays a part for specialist roles, but to ableds it comes down to how good people can professional relationships (whatever they are). I can’t define it properly as I don’t understand them properly myself because I’m neurodivergent, which therein lie the root issue with the world of work’s reliance on networking.

If you don’t have the skills, ability or understanding for networking is you will be at a disadvantage. The simplest way I can define networking is “the ability to conform to an arbitrary standard set by the neurotypical, privileged majority in society. This is to build rapport with people to help support each other as colleagues and further each other’s careers.” The world of work subtly discriminates against swathes of groups as a result, but especially towards neurodivergent people.

Neurotypicals do not explain networking adequately. They don’t explain the building blocks so that people who need extra support to understand can do so. It also means anyone who makes social mistakes or good faith approaches outside of the accepted standards risk being glossed over for jobs, or even worse, bullied and blacklisted.

It also applies in jobs too, such as setting unreasonable expectations by not helping the neurodivergent person understand how they should respond to situations. An excellent example of this happened at my last job. I was told I did not “show initiative” when dealing with queries when actually I could not work out the expected solution to very ambiguous situations. I’m autistic so unless I was told what to do, it was impossible. This is the case in a lot of customer service roles where pleasing the neurotypical majority is paramount. This is regardless of what mistake they made (such as not following procedures, or when famous or important people are involved).

Again, we cannot communicate in impossible situations.

It contributes to damaging mental and physical health of workers, even when employers act to try to protect it

The damage the workplace does to disabled people is real. This is even when employers are well-intentioned but ultimately fall short of understanding how the world of work they operate in is exclusionary. For disabled people, the world of work is a lifelong uphill battle as little barriers pop up very day that cannot always be overcome or managed. Eventually, the damage builds up to a point where they have no choice but to stop working. Disabled people notice these things in ways even the most genuinely inclusive employers don’t. That’s why employers need to listen to us.

Employers are so used to the existing system; they want to continue with said system, not knowing what alternatives are out there or fearing what alternatives to put in primarily due to believing myths or not wanting to threaten profits. Even those that do go above and beyond still put said constraints in place mentioned above, meaning there is still a glass ceiling stopping disabled employees from fulfilling their potential. This is one reason why employers routinely denied homeworking until COVID-19 forced employers to put it in place for ableds.

The physical and mental harm is still there and is still done, but employers and politicians alike will often blame the individual, rather than the system they operate in. Yes, some jobs truly aren’t appropriate for some disabled people despite accommodations (such as my previous job), but this isn’t the case for everyone. Thus, it should not be used as a blanket excuse to not address the existing model. Even if they let us go out of genuine concern for our health, the damage is done.

We can’t protect our health in impossible situations.

Many disabled people reach an impossible choice, that current initiatives do not address

The world of work has a lot of initiatives for disabled people, which have gone some way to improve the conference and employability skills of many typically shut out of work. I have accessed some of this support in the past and they helped me greatly improve my skills and become better able to work. I am grateful to the good support that I accessed and do believe they are valuable and for any disabled person reading this – it is worth engaging suitable schemes. I continue to do this now.

However, most, if not all, omit a major shortcoming. Many schemes I’ve engaged prepare many disabled people towards full-time work even though many like myself will later find out that they cannot do this. There is no support on what to do if you are disabled and want to/have to earn a full-time income but can’t handle the world of work. Anyone in that gap is basically on their own or are told the usual accommodation stuff. It is still about trying to help disabled people adjust to an existing system that for many is impossible. This is one reason many employers struggle to retain disabled employees.

That said, some schemes are in bad faith, such as sheltered workshops, that force disabled people (usually with higher support needs) to work for the subminimum wage where there is no chance of career progression or independent living. I have no personal experience with this, so I will leave links to some further reading about this – one from the United States and another from Germany.

The message the world of work implicitly sends is that of abandonment. It’s telling us that there is support out there, except disability support that emphasises autonomy and getting an sustainable income without being exploited by the employer or the state is tough to find. Additionally, hoping employers agree to accommodate support needs is not acceptable, when in reality they can easily discriminate by claiming the accommodation requests aren’t reasonable and get away with it.

It means many disabled people are put into a position where there is no easy way forward and said support initiatives did not prepare them for, which can further damage mental health. To paraphrase the words of somebody else I spoke to recently who is in an equally tricky situation (which I think sums it up perfectly):

“The world of work forces disabled people to make a choice between their career and their independence.”

We shouldn’t have to sacrifice either under any circumstances.

The following are what many disabled people do

For those who choose independence, this often means going self employed, freelance or only look for remote working jobs. It means that we can curate our environment and schedule to our needs while also working towards an income we can live on. This can take a while so is risky; however, getting passive income in particular can pay off in the long run as it reduces required working hours. For others, this means having to leave work altogether, which puts them at the mercy of governments to actually give them the money they are entitled to live on. Many disabled people cannot work even if the system changed, but so many more could. And we want to.

I imagine a lot of disabled people who choose the career option do it for one of two reasons – the first is internalised ableism like the myth of “overcoming disability.” The other reason is that their circumstances mean they’ve got no choice. One example is that they have no social security, so they have to work, even though they know this is harmful. Usually, people that choose the career option sooner or later have to revert to the independence option after their health declines, or they get let go.

What are the solutions to this?

Firstly, any solution should focus on prioritising the autonomy and human rights of disabled people, as by doing so this physical and mental health damaged is reduced or eliminated. This is to help avoid situations for disabled employees like I described in the last paragraph. It will also indirectly benefit abled as well.

This means many of the fundamental ideas that underpin the world of work need to be demolished entirely and changed on a structural level. Some ways (both on an organisational and legal level) include:

  • A shorter working week so that many disabled people can work said hours without losing pay or having to request accommodations
  • Move to remote working more often, as well as making home working standard or a legal right where possible (and it is possible for the vast majority of office jobs – I wrote a whole article on this)
  • Set out unwritten social rules and expectations – ie. Written down and frequently updated.
  • Change expectations to become more friendly to neurodivergent people. To go back to the ambiguity example, instead of trying to people please neurotypicals who don’t follow proceedures without a good reason, enforce them. Eventually, they will get the message as the customer is not always right and the disorganised, last minute nature of many neurotypicals is detrimental to the welfare of neurodivergent staff
  • Make specific holiday time available for those with specific needs without dipping into the default holiday time. Such as allowing extra holiday for weekly counselling appointments, social care chunks as well as for essential healthcare (like appointments at specialist clinics).
  • Outline alternative pathways to employment to disabled people clearly, to avoid them being having to choose between independence and a career.
  • Emphasising the world of work’s failings to accommodate to prevent internalised ableism
  • Encourage people to financially support disabled people who go self employed like what happens in social justice circles
  • Push for structural change, so more disability-friendly practises are enshrined in law for everyone, not just as an accommodation that has to be requested and can be denied.
  • Abolish sheltered workshops.
  • Universal basic income – this was trailed in Finland with positive results
  • A progressive tax system.
  • Higher corporation tax
  • Read more articles from disabled people like this one

In conclusion

Overall, the world of work needs to go further to be truly inclusive. This is because accessibility benefits everyone regardless of ability – improving the quality of life for everyone while making the impossible possible for a significant chunk of the population.

Even if it means we earn less money in the long run, we have to choose our independence over a fulfilling, high flying career. This is because it is no good having a job if it is slowly destroying somebody’s physical or mental health – thus sabotaging somebody’s autonomy and therefore independence. In that scenario, it is better not to work.

As someone who has hit said independence vs career choice over the last 12 months, what you have just read is what I have taken away from it. I don’t know what I’ll be doing now work-wise but I do know one thing – no matter what happens, I will find a way forward. To any other disabled people reading this, that applies to you too.

Milla xx
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

Why the End of Bigoted “Checks and Balances” is Inevitable

Featured image description: White text on a pink background saying the blogpost title of “Why the End of Bigoted “Checks and Balances” is Inevitable”. To the right is the blog name in purple text as well as the logo (a golden neurodiversity symbol on top of a black trans symbol).

CW for transphobia, brief examples of bigotry impacting many other minority groups (no detail)

Hi all,

I’m writing today’s post to talk about something important after recent news. Namely, around the concept of “checks and balances” which is one of the anti-trans dog whistles that was used by Liz Truss in her first Women’s Equality & Human Rights Committee meeting in April 2020. It was then reinforced in a leaked report in the June 14th, 2020 issue of the Sunday Times. The original quote from the meeting is as follows:

“…making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, while maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.”

The usage of “checks and balances” here underpins a lot of fundamental issues that are not just limited to transgender rights. Hence I’m going to explain why this impacts everybody and what to do about it.

It implies the myth that we aren’t all human or worthy of respect, despite the precise opposite being the case.

We are all human and broadly have similar desires and needs. We all desire a good quality of life in whatever forms that each of us wants. We all need access to the resources that will help us get to a good position that satisfies us. We all have human rights and dignity that we are entitled to – and deserve.

A lot of privileged people don’t realise this on a deep level about minority groups, mainly because they’ve been unknowingly conditioned to think that way. Whether it’s the erasure of British colonial history (leading to many denying the UK is racist) to transgender people labelled as predatory and dangerous by the media, the undertones of “us vs them,” “normal vs abnormal” and “familiar vs strange” exist. When if all of this is put aside, we are all human and possess much deeper commonalities then we think.

It implies that restrictions will be put in place, even if broader society denies this.

This is the result of the implications set above. The “checks and balances” reinforce people’s misguided perceptions of abnormality in minority groups. It is an approach intended to restrict freedom and encourage conformity, “checking” that people are adhering to their wishes while trying to “balance” the reaction to stop the masses realising it’s discrimination.
Of course, this does have consequences:

  • For trans people, it means having to convince cisgender people to agree with them that they are their gender  (which is very dehumanising and is why the GRA and NHS trans pathways aren’t fit for purpose).

  • For disabled people, it means constant hostility from the state who run on the assumption that social security fraud is rampant and people must not cost the state anything, regardless of the outcome on disabled people.

  • For homeless people, it means having to continually to prove that they are “really homeless” and nobody else can help them due to artificially constrained supply of both housing and support for addressing issues.

These kind of issues apply to every minority in some form even if they aren’t directly targeted by certain “checks and balances” agendas (ie. Systematic racism, migrants from abroad). At the time of writing though, trans people are the target with the dogwhistle “checks and balances” to signify this.

The idea that “checks and balances” can be put in place to regulate minority groups for any length of time highlights one of the fundamental flaws with conservative ideology. Change is inevitable.

In the past, a lot of things Westerners take for granted today were not standard in the past and our ancestors had to fight for them. Examples include women being able to vote, decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing slavery. These weren’t given to us, we had to fight for them.

Conservatives are the gatekeepers of these rights and only because they have more influential power in the world, but are vulnerable when collective action is taken. Previous generations fought for change, and we got it – and this did include violence and riots.

Of course, the fight isn’t over. Voter suppression still happens, trans rights are under attack, and systematic racism is far and wide (hence the current Black Lives Matter movement). This is before mentioning how many rights Westerners have are non-existent in former European colonies to this day. This is due to said conservative colonialists forcing their “checks and balances” across the world.

We will win, but we have to work for it.

The status quo cannot be upheld forever. It is simply not possible. The “checks and balances” that are standard now to suppress minorities will destroy itself naturally as more people begin to understand that we are human. This includes many of those that initially enforced said “checks and balances” in the first place.

But that does mean we have to get political such as – sending letters to political figures, running campaigns, spread accurate information on and offline as well as taking to the streets and get allies on board. It will be worth the struggle.

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

What’s in a Name? – Redux –

Hi, I’m Milla.

I finally got around to doing something I’ve thought about doing for a while – rebranding my blog.

On this blog, I will be focusing primarily on my lived experience of being autistic and trans going forward. I’ve been doing this for the last year or so without changing the name, but now it is official.

More specifically, I aim to blog about:

– Lived experiences, particularly as I work to rebuild my life
– Rambles that will be looked at from the lense of lived experience and intersectionality
– Political rambles, mainly around UK politics but would like to do more
– Guides and advice (ie. For transitioning in the UK)
– Anything else that wouldn’t get aired in UK mainstream media
– Links to any other things I do

Why the change?

I used to focus primarily on autism but moved away from that over time. This is mainly because the experiences of those percieved as autistic boys is very well trodden ground if it does not include a trans perspective. Therefore some originality is needed. This revamp symbolises this and makes it more official.

I am also hoping to primarily channel my online political thoughts (and more serious posts) onto my blog alongside positivity so that social media is a more positive space for myself and others. This doesn’t mean I’ll be spamming politics blogposts but what it is mean is that I can consolidate my thoughts better.

I have gone back and corrected pronouns on older blogposts as well as deleted some that don’t reflect who I sm today or I wish to rewrite (such as my blogpost on being aspec, which now I’ve transitioned I am unsure if I still feel the same way). So some reposts will go up at some point.

Why the change?

When I first started almost three years ago, I was anonymous because I was a socially anxious mess. I had no idea who I really was and internalised a lot of problematic beliefs. This was mainly due to being mistreated growing up and hence becoming vulnerable to toxic crowds as a result. I also wasn’t engaged with the disability community much so struggled to meet my needs but was also unaware of the diverse range of lived experience out there. I preferred anonymity as a result of my circumstances then, hence I chose the pseudonym Subtle.

Nowadays, Milla is proud to be themselves largely due to what I realised, discovered and learnt since starting this blog. I’m confident in who I am and despite everything, life has never been better. That said, I don’t have patience for bullshit and will be quite direct with that. I’m trans. I’m autistic. I’m an intersectional feminist. I don’t speak for everyone with my lived experience but said experiences are part of who I am.

Here is the new logo (with image description):

ID: The logo for Trans Autistic Feminist. The logo consists of a “Light it Up Gold” neurodiversity helic on top of a black trans symbol. The background is pink and the blog title “Trans Autistic Feminist” is written in purple below.

Here is a sample featured image with image description):

ID: A sample featured image for “Trans Autistic Feminist.” On the right is the blog logo which is identical to what is in the above logo image.

To the left is white text in front of a pink background that will be the title of the blogpost. This one says “Noise-Cancelling Liberation.”

I have also changed the layout a bit to reflect this change, but at the time of writing is still a work in progress.

I hope y’all continue to stick around.

Best,
Milla xx

Black Lives Matter (including resources & links)

Featured ID: Whote text on a black background that says “#BlackLivesMatter (including Resources and Links)”

Major TW police brutality, racism, ableism, murder, white supremacy

Hi all,

Firstly, apologies again for the silence on here for a bit. My blog was on haitus due to my personal circumstances (which will be discussed another time).

That said, given the current climate that can not be ignored, I need to make something clear here given that not everyone who reads my blog follows my Twitter.

Black Lives Matter.

Systematic racism is not normal nor should it be tolerated.

The systematic murder of black people by the police and other government forces for existing is not OK.

We wouldn’t have LGBTQ+ rights without the black trans women that led the Stonewall riots all those years ago. And yes said riots were violent just as the current riots are.

Autistic black people are just group of black disabled people who are even more vulnerable to police brutality due to how systematic racism and ableism intersect.

Fuck fascism and all who enable it. If you are “anti-antifa” you are pro-fascism. Antifa isn’t an organisation, it is short for anti-fascism. Hence you out yourself as a fascist and a danger to minorities. Dismantling racism is key to atopping fascism. You can’t have one without the other.

You need to do your bit to show support especially if you are white. And that dosen’t mean a performative black square on social media and call it a day. Or posting #AllLivesMatter, “the cops aren’t that bad” and other dismissive nonsense.

It means:

– boost voices of black people especially those who are multiply marginalised

– hire black people and donate to their crowdfunders

– educating yourself on systematic racism and colonialism and how it persists to this day

(This ESPECIALLY applies to white British people in particular. Many current geopolitical conflicts (ie. Jammu and Kashmir) alongside racism in UK government policy (ie. Windrush, Brexit) are largely because white Brits haven’t took the time understand British history)

– attend protest marches where possible

– sign petitions and boost protest related content

– holding the racists in your personal life to account

Here are some resources to help you:

Links to BLM sites:

https://blmsites.carrd.co/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://blacklivesmatter.com/

https://allblm.carrd.co/

Petitions to sign:
https://twitter.com/notlikethemonth/status/1267830196272459776?s=19

Bail funds to donate to:
https://twitter.com/sorrybythway/status/1267469168300998656?s=19

YouTube ad donation videos:

A 1 hour long YouTube video project where all ad revenue will go towards BLM causes for those who can’t donate themselves:

https://youtu.be/bCgLa25fDHM

Note: You MUST turn off adblock and let the ads fully run to be effective.

For repeat watches only do so after watching 3-5 videos of differing lengths to stop it being marked as spam.

And here is a thread of other similar donation vids:
https://twitter.com/iDiminies/status/1267550974190764033?s=19

Resource for disabled people regarding protests:
https://twitter.com/gender_goblin/status/1267215844754567168?s=19

UK specific anti-racism resources:

“Racism in the UK: What they didn’t teach us in school” instagram post with lots of starting points for research: https://www.instagram.com/p/CA53Q_WDl9O/?igshid=14acojkudj5xg

Black Lives Matter UK Reading List:
https://twitter.com/LDNYoungLabour/status/1268160429999697920?s=19

Another non-UK specific google drive resource with more black activism and history info:
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0Bz011IF2Pu9TUWIxVWxybGJ1Ync

If you play video games, here is a database of black devs to support:
http://www.blackgamedevs.com/

If there’s any more things people would like me to add to this list, please leave a comment. I’ll make sure to add them 🙂

Once again, Black Lives Matter.

Fuck racism, fascism and white supremacy.

Human lives come above all else. Businesses can be rebuilt once lost but lives cannot.

Milla xx

On the Subject of Trans Women, Refuges + Terf Dogwhistles

Featured image description: Rows of makeshift beds in a large, well-lit room. The duvets are in are various colours.

CN for transphobia, terf discussion – including direct quotes from a terf blogpost, domestic abuse, trauma, death mention, detransition rhetoric, ableism, gaslighting, toxic masculinity

Hi all, 

Today is going to be quite a long post for many reasons. Mainly that I’m going to address the elephant in the room in the eyes of terfs – about trans women accessing “single-sex spaces” – including women’s refuges. This is from the perspective of somebody who got barred from one when feeling domestic abuse. I am now only just able to start coming to terms with this as I finally escaped my abusers. Furthermore, with the recent news that the UK government plan to roll back trans rights this year (starting with trans kids), I feel now is the time to publish this.

This is a lengthy blogpost as I’m going to detail things extensively – not just my personal experiences. There are also screenshots and quotes from transphobes – because yes, despite what people want to claim transphobia is still an issue in women’s refuges. While there are women’s refuges that are inclusive of trans people, there are a lot who aren’t.  

My escape was a long time coming due to many systematic barriers I faced. Here is a link to that post, so I don’t have to go into detail again here.  

So why am I writing a blog post on this specifically? Well, it’s for two reasons – firstly, so myself and others can source this article where appropriate because the voices of trans women are being silenced (ironically from those complaining they are being silenced, which is nonsense).

Secondly, because I wish to elaborate on the above a bit more as it was only through time that I was able to accept that I was rejected on the grounds of transphobia. I had previously thought it was just because they didn’t feel they could support me for any other reasons. This post also clarifies a lot of the dog whistles transphobes use – whether they are terfs or just random people spreading rhetoric they don’t understand.  

That said, the refuge as well as the staff I engaged with there are kept anonymous in this piece.  

The critical thing to remember is the trans women’s needs are often similar to cis women’s  

There is much misunderstanding about the needs of trans women and what being trans is. Hence a lot of beliefs services users have are rooted in transphobia whether they realise it or not.  

Trans feminine people generally wish to be treated like cis women. This is because the way wider society perceives us means that we are victims of systematic sexism and misogyny from those around us. This often includes years of mistreatment from cis men – often for prolonged periods of time in very similar aspects that cis women face – especially when other marginalisations are involved ie. Disability and race.  

This is something that affects all feminine presenting people, especially those that “pass” as a cis woman. Here is what I mean: 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 12:03pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Please can you email me the information we discussed yesterday. It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre but I am looking into further support for you.
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liason Worker”

“It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre” is vague and was probably said to try to hedge the bad news. This was the first red flag, hence I enquired.

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 20:06pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hi [Liason Worker],

I have attached two files – a copy of [redacted] as well as a log of all the recent things that have happened, updated to today.
 
Could you please explain to me what you mean by “it may not be appropriate to see you at the centre?”
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

Note that I am supplying sensitive information, including logs – one of the critical things domestic abuse survivors have to compile. How exactly is it “inappropriate” that a trans woman is trying to access support?  

This person then replied with the following:  

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Thank you for the information I will look at it and discuss the best course of action in conjunction with our Advice Worker. Our transgender policy states that we can only engage face to face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition. This said I am very concerned about the information you have shared with me and feel you need more support. We will be able to offer phone support and possible sign posting to another agency. We have no intention in giving up on your case but your situation is unique to us and we need to offer you the most appropriate support possible.
 
I will be in touch soon
 
Kind regards
[redacted], Liason Worker”

I would like to draw particular attention to this quote – “Our transgender policy states we can only engage face-to-face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition.”  

This is why the refuge rejected me. It wasn’t a case of “may not” – it was “was not,” but I had to push for an answer. The problems with this policy – assuming it’s genuine – is that it’s completely unrealistic only to accept post-op trans people. Somebody’s genitals don’t come into this frankly unless people know about it – or suspect that somebody is trans even though said judgements are often very inaccurate. It is a de-facto benchmark for what many think qualifies someone as transgender – and frankly, this obsession with what genitals a trans person has by cis people is quite creepy.  

In reality, it is not a realistic benchmark to maintain even on a purely practical level. For example, in the UK, trans people have to wait years before they can even have an initial appointment, let alone a surgery consultation. This is because of the long waiting times, horrendous gatekeeping that leads to wasted appointments and the overall administrative nightmare that system is. The only real way to get medical treatment in the UK promptly and safely is to go private. In the case of surgery, this usually means going abroad. For many trans people – especially those from poorer backgrounds – going private isn’t an option. I did call this out (though not in much detail). 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hello [redacted],
 
Thank you for getting back to me.
 
I am really confused as to why this policy is in place. It’s not my fault I haven’t even had the opportunity to discuss surgery with a professional (and won’t for at least 4-5 years unless I go private) and would also discriminate against me if I decided against surgery. This policy also discriminates against intersex people who happen to present feminine/grow up feminine and have a penis.
 
I know this is legal under the Equality Act (so long as the purpose is to achieve a “legitimate aim” which I assume is the case here) so I am not surprised that this has come up. I would appreciate an explanation to calm my anxiety. I’m worried if I am kicked out of my home I may have to go somewhere where predatory cis men are such as mixed gender homeless shelters (and that would be genuinely dangerous for me because [redacted].
 
I would be and feel safest within a women’s refuge especially as I want and need to be treated like a cis woman as much as possible. Is this kind of policy typical for women’s refuges? If I was on hormones already, could fully pass as a cis woman and had breasts as a result of HRT I probably would never have disclosed I’m trans in light of this.
 
I also would find traveling to a refuge further away difficult especially if I’m in a meltdown which is what would most likely happen if I am kicked out of [redacted] before I have somewhere to go. [rest of this paragraph has been redacted].
 
Am I right in assuming the appointment I booked for [redacted] is cancelled as a result? I see no point keeping it if I would not be allowed into the refuge to talk face-to-face due to this policy.
 
Apologies for all of the questions and the bombardment of my anxiety-ridden thoughts. I also apologise if there are contractual obligations in place that mean you aren’t able to provide me with answers in depth or at all. Feel free to ignore certain questions if you can’t answer them.
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

I was a bit of a trauma mess with this response as I wasn’t fully processing what was going on. Primarily because – at the time – I was not used to travelling extensively across the UK, and I feared what would happen if I had to leave (see the fourth paragraph). But I was quite clear I was scared and reading this back it’s heartbreaking. Though for anybody trying to access services, oversharing fears, intimate details and triggers are essential to get taken seriously.  Here is their final reply to me:

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,

My colleague is currently reading your information. We agree that we need to complete a DASH ( a risk assessment on your safety) which we will do over the phone. Once this is completed, we will know where to refer you to. We are thinking [redacted] who can offer outreach support.
 
Anyone going to refuge would need to move out of area which I know will not work for you. Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.
 
As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women but we are more than willing to support you over the phone as we will not turn away an individual who needs help. We are approaching your case with sensitivity and are trying to offer you as much support as we are able.
 
Are you willing to complete a risk assessment over the phone? We offer this service to women so we are not discriminating against you or offering you a lesser service. My colleague [redacted] is able to offer you a phone appointment on [redacted]. This would be in place of the scheduled face to face appointment next Friday.
 
I have left a voice mail with [redacted] but have not heard anything back. I will chase them again next week. If you hear from them please let us know.
 
I hope this answers some of your questions.
 
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liaison Worker

They offered the risk assessment – but I never emailed them again after this because I was devastated. Hence, I didn’t have the assessment, and subsequently, my escape is now even further away. It was not long after this that I felt I needed to look for a job to escape of which I did get one. But I was ultimately let go from the job which was inevitable.  

There are also mentions in here about biology and safety, which are no doubt rooted in believing myths about trans people. For example:  

“Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.”  

“As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women”  

Here are some articles that debunk the gender binary and the idea that they “biological men/women” myths, because they are not accurate. Many people who believe in the gender binary are uninformed due to what they are taught in school but don’t care. However, there are people that use the myth as an argument to roll back trans rights and enforce strict gender rules. This is ultimately the goal of transphobes – whom are mainly conservative people.  

Article 1: https://qz.com/1007198/the-myth-that-gender-is-binary-is-perpetuated-by-a-flawed-education-system/   

Article 2: https://medium.com/@QSE/the-xx-xy-lie-our-social-construction-of-a-sex-and-gender-binary-4eed1e60e615  

It’s examples like this that support the reality that the majority of cis women support trans women but lack the understanding to provide proper support. Perhaps if service staff had improved training, then they would feel more able to deal with trans women as many do not need as much specialist support as people think. This is what I initially thought – as it is not incorrect – and used to justify to myself why the refuge excluded me as there was no more evidence either way. 

I will further discuss this on page 2.

On COVID-19, Home Working and Internalised Ableism

Content warning for: internalised ableism, COVID-19

Hi all,

In this post, I’m gonna talk a bit about the coronavirus and work today. The reason why is that the way employers have handled the coronavirus is both a source of frustration and opportunity for disabled people. I am going to reference my experience with my last employer to help illustrate this point.

My past experience

I had found out a few weeks ago my former employer is now working from home as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. All the team would not be in the office and could only be contacted through written mediums (or Zoom if they needed a meeting).

Yet when I worked there, I was never able to get any regular time out of the office to work privately in a quiet environment. This was an accommodation I needed for my sensory needs. The office is very overstimulating as a lot happens day to day, so even working outside the office elsewhere would have been OK. But I truly needed to be able to work from home at least two days a week.

I was not able to deal with the multitasking of various work and dealing with clients and an overstimulating. Not always being in the office to work would have taken the pressure off me. They felt it was “integral to the role” that I was in the office to answer questions even in an unsuitable environment.

Yet in light of COVID-19, the idea that my presence is “integral” to the role is nonsense. If I still worked for them, I would now be working from home too. My part was very similar to theirs. I would have worked from home in an environment that suited me, and I could regulate when I talk to people on my terms. Yet I wasn’t able to have this when I worked for them as a reasonable adjustment? Even Occupational Health agreed – their report was useless from my perspective. This doesn’t make sense, right? Well actually, it does.

I have no personal grief towards my former employer about anything. Even if they did accommodate me in this way, I still would have lost the job as it was unsuitable for me for many other reasons. However, these anti-home working attitudes are the kind of thinking that employers have systematically – even inclusive ones. I’m now going to explain what’s wrong with it and what employers can do to get around it.

Ableist expectations

There is the ableist expectation regarding work that employees must have a physical presence in the workplace period. There is this expectation that workers should be expected to relocated for all roles hence there are countries like the UK where the economy is centralised to a few specific regions. In the UK, the region is mainly London and the surrounding counties.

These expectations are so deep that employers – even genuinely inclusive ones that do try their best – do not realise the true extent. The foundations they use for employee expectations are rooted in ableism that harms disabled people. This is systematic ableism – namely that the design of the capitalist workplace itself discriminates against disabled people.

Abled employers barring disabled people from working – but then changing their minds when it affects them – is a blatant double standard. Yet when you point this out, many people will have no idea and cite the “extraordinary circumstances” of the virus. Yet they do not realise that disabled people have been dealing with these “extraordinary circumstances” for decades. Here’s what I mean:

  • We’ve learnt not to expect public services to help us correctly, and we have to fight for access.
  • We’ve learnt that communicating over the internet is more accessible for us than in-person events because we often can’t attend them.
  • We’ve learnt the importance of self-care and curating our environments, so we don’t force ourselves to tolerate an unhealthy environment that worsens our disabilities.
  • We’ve learnt to take extra steps to look after ourselves medically – whether that be medication, extra caution in daily life or allowing our bodies to rest when it tells us.
  • We’ve learnt to expect to be failed by the world of work repeatedly – bracing for the worst whenever we work for a new employer and being genuinely surprised when we find a genuinely inclusive one.
  • We’ve learnt to deal with a social security system that would rather deprive us of all support than give us what we’re entitled to.
  • We’ve accepted deep down we will have structural societal barriers to overcome, and we have to learn to deal with an inaccessible world that doesn’t value our lives.

Many disabled people accept that reality, but others don’t. Others continue to push their boundaries and force themselves to fit into the mould of broader society, even if deep down, they feel like a burden. And they know that the ableds around them mostly see them as a burden too – especially financially.

This is called internalised ableism – learned ableist messages from broader society. It’s not anyone’s fault for internalising them – whether it be disabled jobseekers or abled employers. Still, it does mean they need to take steps to unlearn it. This is because systematic ableism is underpinned by internalised ableism of most of those that participate in it.

I genuinely believe that there are employers out there that do embrace inclusivity. They do sincerely try to recruit staff from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. However, to be genuinely inclusive, it also means unlearning the ableism that has impacted their thinking towards work. This means unlearning internalised ableism as it benefits everyone.

How to be genuinely inclusive

This means redesigning jobs so that if ableds can suddenly work from home in the event of an emergency, disabled people can do so at all times so we can manage our conditions. For most office-based jobs, this will be possible. This means ditching the expectations of having to relocate staff unless it’s necessary.

In the UK, graduates shouldn’t have to move to London or a select number of other places just to get jobs that are right for their skills. People shouldn’t have to rely on jobs available in person because big employers will not offer home working. This is even when their response to coronavirus proves they can.

In my case, it meant that I didn’t truly need to be in the office the whole time. I knew that from the beginning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it all the time. Yet they saw it as “integral to the role”. Hence, I had to either fit into what the employer wanted or eventually get let go. Quitting wasn’t an option for various reasons.

The results of not accommodating disabled people are apparent to those that pay attention. Alongside disabled people being out of work, many of us are highlighting the hypocritical behaviour of many employers now becoming blatantly clear due to the outbreak. Many of us are at best, annoyed or at worst, angry. Though bitterness is more often than not what people see.

The feeling of seeing yet again how accommodations are only consistently given to employees when ableds need it. However, when disabled people need it, they are denied, even when it’s against the law. That’s why it takes longer for us to get jobs generally and struggle to maintain them. That’s why many of us go self-employed or hide our diagnoses at work. Because it is often safer for us to do so – whether it to manage our quality of life generally or simply make working possible.

For any disabled people out there who can work reading this – take note. You now have a powerful argument to the state to employers to get you the accommodations that you are entitled to.

Good employers should accept this reality and work to further accommodate disabled staff. Whereas bad faith employers have expertly played themselves, and now it will be harder for them to deny accommodations. The evidence will be out there for all to find over an internet search (like this).

The future is homeworking – not just for disabled people can we can actually work, but also for ableds to improve their quality of life too. It benefits everyone – and it starts by learning the lessons from coronavirus. The world of work doesn’t have to be the way it is now. It doesn’t have to go back to old habits once the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Work can be better. It must be.

That’s all,

Milla xx

The Case for Not Giving Unsolicited Advice

Content note: examples of ableism and transphobia used to support arguments

Hi all,

One of the things that have been an issue as of late for me is something that marginalised people typically face when trying to improve a situation. I’m talking about unsolicited advice. Today I’m gonna explain in this blogpost why people really need to lay off with advice when it’s not explicitly sought. To provide supporting examples, I’m going to use my ongoing homelessness situation as it is an example of a situation where unsolicited advice is not helpful.

It’s not helpful

A lot of people who give unsolicited advice often do not understand the complexities of a situation. This comes from two angles. Firstly, the individual. Each person has their own individual circumstances that mean their case is unique in the eyes of professionals. While there are common themes in people’s stories, there are personal stories and access needs that make each case different. For some people, this makes their matters more complicated. For many, this also makes their cases sensitive hence details aren’t disclosed readily. This means that many people who other help do not know these complexities, which means their advice is unhelpful – despite good intentions.

The second angle is that many people do not realise how government policy – especially by capitalist, right-wing governments – has led to services being underfunded and understaffed. Hence demand often outstripping supply. So things are going to take longer because there isn’t enough money or people available to help. Furthermore, a lot of privileged people will not see this reality because they haven’t experienced it. Many people don’t have supportive family or friends nor the money and privilege to buy support quickly. Furthermore, many people get gatekept by professionals for who they are – such as trans people getting barred from single-gender spaces because they are trans.

The same things are said over and over again

Remember, when I said there are common themes providers find when people are close to getting the support they need? One of them is that they have been failed by services repeatedly. People expect solutions to be simple and happen instantly hence make things sound so easy – and this gets upsetting. I’ve had multiple people tell me to “get [my] housing sorted first” before doing anything else. One person even cited Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

These people do not understand the systematic barriers I’ve faced and the fact I need a lot of support to do this – something which I’ve only started to get after moving halfway across the UK (aka drastic action). It’s very unsettling that people act it is that simple for everyone. Still, for many in complex situations like mine, it merely isn’t, and it feels dismissive to have it oversimplified in this way. This is often done repeatedly, by well-meaning sources who don’t know each other so cannot discuss cases in depth.

Frequently hearing the same advice is demoralising and eventually becomes grating. They are scripts – often used to mock neurodivergent people when they are using them – yet ableds seem to get away with using them. It’s a double standard that impacts neurodivergent people in general, but it’s particularly noticeable here.

People feel an obligation to help, even when they can’t

I’ve found when I’ve talked to people, they do sincerely mean well and want to help. And that is a good thing and they deserve credit for that. But in many cases, they can’t and therefore give advice because they feel a social obligation to be helpful. Hence they provide the information to ease this pressure on themselves.

When people vent, they are often not asking for help. Yes, we’ve likely tried what you think is obvious and for many reasons, we haven’t got anywhere. You don’t have an obligation to help us a lot of the time. And if you do, we will often ask directly. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen and let us vent. That is more helpful than any advice nine times out of ten.

Sometimes we are gatekept, other times there are genuine access needs or extra barriers that we can’t overcome. A good example is how many services only offer a telephone contact method which is not accessible for many people. Therefore, a lot of emergency/crisis support is not accessible, like support lines. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been given crisis lines by people trying to support me only for me to explain that I can’t access it. I’ve had to start preemptively telling people not to offer them which has finally got people to back off.

Asserting needs is key for people in complex situations

Marginalised people have to assert their needs preemptively a lot – if it is even safe to do so. We aren’t “typical clients” – we are people dealing with the most challenging periods of our lives and we have additional support needs. So yes, that means telling providers not to contact people via the phone in advance before they suggest it if possible. It means telling providers what our triggers are in advance, so they aren’t likely to set them off by mistake. Sometimes it means not saying anything at all about certain aspects if possible. To give one example, trans people who have passing privilege are usually better off not disclosing to services they are transgender as it risks discrimination.

Good people will accommodate our needs. Good people will respect our boundaries. Good people will understand that unsolicited advice is often counterproductive. Good people that don’t understand any of this yet will take the time to learn and help their staff be better at supporting vulnerable people. If you’ve read this article, that’s an excellent sign. The world needs good people and active support networks. One way to do that is understanding the lived experience of service users. Hopefully, this post has gone a little way towards this goal.

That’s all for today,
Milla xx

For Trans People, Legal Recognition is Important. Here’s Why

Featured image description: A variety of colourful passports for many different countries including the UK, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Denmark.

CN in blog post for misgendering, transphobia discussion

Hi all,

Today is gonna be a fairly short post compared to normal a few reasons – one of which is my personal situation, but also because…

…I am finally legally female on my passport.

This is a really big deal for me for a few reasons as now the gender marker on it matches how I present. But to help others understand the importance of this I’m gonna explain a bit more on a general level in today’s post before I go and celebrate.

So why are legally correct documents like passports a big deal for a trans person?

Safety

This is the obvious one. Somebody who has to supply ID for anything can now show a document without the worry of being outed. It’s a form of protection as many cis people place great importance on what documents say. It is part of the quick judgements that people make when they serve people in a shop – such as when checking ID to buy age-restricted products.

Other people use it as an argument to invalidate people’s gender identities and by being able to change it makes their argument completely null. This is because many cis people would otherwise agree as they place great importance on cis people recognising somebody being trans (which isn’t ok but is a whole other thing).

Ability to travel more easily

Another reason is being able to travel abroad and emigrate more easily as a correctly gendered passport is less likely to cause issues when trying to get through customs control. This means travelling becomes a lot more viable for trans people again as before the options were limited to domestic travel as well as certain other legal arrangements where border checks are reduced (ie. Within the EU).

If the gender marker matches how somebody presents, customs officers are much more likely to let people through without any issues. Whereas if somebody presents a passport with a marker that doesn’t match how they present (ie. A trans woman with a passport that says M under sex/gender), they will likely run into issues including having to out themselves to strangers.

Of course, this issue does not apply where transphobia is widespread and/or has been illegalised in law even for those that have fully transitioned – however, most trans people wouldn’t risk going to many of these places (ie. The Middle East) anyway.

That said, the exception of this relates to for the nonbinary X gender marker in countries that aren’t super LGBTQ+ friendly and gender diversity is embraced. For this reason, I personally wouldn’t get one despite identifying as non-binary. However, the option should be made available because for some this is not something they can overlook.

To overcome systematic barriers

Additionally, and most importantly, a correctly gendered passport can allow for some of the barriers trans people face being systematically overcome. For me, I am now finally able to move forward with my homelessness situation as my misgendered passport was only one of many systematic barriers I was facing. The anxiety it caused stopped me from getting anywhere with housing.

It also depends on the laws of individual countries. In the UK, the path to getting a passport’s gender marker legally changed is much easier than getting a Gender Recognition Certificate. For the former, you only need a specifically worded doctor’s letter as evidence, whereas the latter needs considerably more documents. It was why there were previous plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

As I write this, the GRA reforms in the UK have been stalled outside of Scotland so it is unlikely the process for getting a GRC will be made any easier. However, in practice, few situations will ever require somebody to show their birth certificate when an updated passport or driving license will be sufficient instead. So as long as trans people in the UK can find a doctor willing to write them this letter, they have a way to go around most of the barriers an incorrect birth certificate will cause. This is in the UK, I can’t speak for other countries where the processes are different.

Hence, in conclusion

Being able to change gender markers on legal documents is life-saving. This means that the processes in each country must be made more accommodating for others, including trans youth as well as for non-binary identities. And by extension for foreigners too including those seeking naturalisation or even just to visit as tourists.

For me personally, my legal transition is effectively complete aside from the GRC which I may return to in the future if I do need to get it but in day to day life I’m covered at this point. The right for somebody to have documents that match the life they live is everyone’s right.

That’s all for today,

Milla xx (now legally female as of 07/02/2020)

Featured image source: In the image on top right corner naming Shuttlestock account CNN Money